Social media can be a sewer. It can also be a shining light. It all depends on how you use it. You can be picky about who you let see your posts, and picky about who you follow.
By curating your list of who you follow, you can be inspired or challenged or informed about what's happening at a supplier company or customer's office.
While most businesses already are comfortable with LinkedIn, other platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter also can be used to connect with the world outside your corporate doors.
When I'm researching background on a company I'm not familiar with, I frequently find myself checking a social media feed filled with birthday celebrations, lunches for workers to meet production goals and cakes marking work anniversaries. For prospective employees, posts like those may tempt them to apply for job openings.
At the same time, following an environmental group like Beyond Plastics can also give you insight into what people outside the industry are saying about recycling and sustainability. You may not agree with what they post, but you should be aware.
Yes, social media can be a stew of uncivil discourse, but you can also unfollow individuals, too. Or you can ignore them. (No one says you have to respond to every comment.) And you can balance work-oriented social media feeds with calming feeds such as the Twitter feed We Rate Dogs (@dog_rates), which never rates any dog as less than 10 out of 10.
This week, Plastics News is highlighting more than 20 social media feeds from plastics suppliers, trade groups and individuals. Some of them come from people and companies that PN staffers follow. Others were nominated by readers.
A lot of them reflect changes in the industry during the past year. Machinery maker Arburg, for instance, has developed its own TV studio to create content for social media and the web to update customers who cannot come to their facilities now.
People like Bob Confer at Confer Plastics and Brian Bendig at Cavalier Tool have been using social media to let people know about how COVID-19 has affected their operations, highlight the work they're doing to support their communities and even pass along the word about job openings.
And it's not just strictly about new business activities. By using social media to highlight employees, companies can provide personal connections that are missing when you can't meet in person.
"[Wepco Plastics] does a great job of showcasing their team. They make every post personal and that's comforting, because in manufacturing it's difficult to see the personal side of the business," said a reader who nominated Wepco. "I want to know who is handling my parts and who is investing in the product that will be on my table. Wepco also does a great job of showcasing their capabilities and staying involved in their community."
Is this list the complete? Of course not. They're a sample of what's out there and an example of the ways other companies are staying in touch, even when they can't open their doors in the real world.
Rhoda Miel is a Plastics News assistant managing editor. Follow her on Twitter @PNRhodaMiel.